19 Jan 2006

Bid to dissolve Fiji court martial panel fails

10:14 am on 19 January 2006

The court martial of 20 Fiji soldiers being tried for the November 2000 mutiny has struck out a bid to dissolve the presiding military panel.

The Fiji Times reports the application was made by Legal Aid lawyer Barbara Malimali on the grounds that the court martial had breached procedures in the last sitting.

She claimed that the panel was sworn in without considering objections from one of the accused because he was not represented.

But the president of the court martial, Col Apakuki Kurusiga, rejected the application, saying court records showed that the soldier, Keni Naika, had told the court he had no objection to the officers.

Meanwhile, the lawyer for four of the accused, Sevuloni Valenitabua, has asked that his clients be released on bail during the trial.

Col Kurusiga will rule on this application today.

The court martial is taking place because although all 20 soldiers had been convicted and sentenced in 2004, the Appeal Court overturned their convictions on a legal technicality and ordered that they be tried again.